The Washington Post

Capitals not worried about Braden Holtby handling playoff havoc

(Jonathan Newton/WASHINGTON POST)

Ask just about any team in the playoffs how they plan to fluster an opposing goaltender and they’ll likely say the same things: crash the crease, put traffic in front and take plenty of shots when the netminder’s view is obstructed. Those guidelines can range from general screens to crashing into a goaltender and everywhere in between.

The Boston Bruins often walk the line between pestering a goalie with physical contact and drawing penalties. They will likely take to test Capitals rookie Braden Holtby early in this first-round series with plenty of chaos around his net. If his teammates know him, though, Holtby will stand up for himself.

“If someone tries to run him, I think there will be a blocker waiting for their face – he’s that kind of goalie,” Jason Chimera said. “He’s got that competitive edge to him and nothing really rattles him that way.”

The Bruins know a thing or two about goaltenders who protect their crease well. (For those who are unfamiliar, check out Tim Thomas’ check on Henrik Sedin from last year’s Stanley Cup final.) But if and when they challenge Holtby’s crease, Karl Alzner thinks Boston might be a little taken aback by how he responds.

“He doesn’t take a lot of crap. I think he’ll be just fine,” said Alzner. “It’s up to us to do a good job of making sure we get those guys out of there, not make it fun for them to stand in front of him. If they’re hurting every time they leave the front of the net then it’s going to be good.”

Holtby is often asked about his aggressive demeanor and the efforts he will go to protect his crease. Since he was recalled to the NHL in March, though, things have been easier for the young netminder.

What he faces when wearing a Capitals sweater is tamer than what he’s accustomed to when playing with the Hershey Bears in the AHL. In the NHL, Holtby said he faces less interference along with fewer players coming up from behind and nudging him.

“To tell you the truth, the NHL game in front of the net is a lot easier than the AHL game. The refs are a lot more precise in their calls. That’s obviously why they’re in the NHL,” Holtby said. “The AHL there’s a lot of stuff that goes that should be penalties and it isn’t. So that’s one thing that I think I do have to my advantage is that I’ve learned to deal through that…..People always come up saying that it was really physical and it wasn’t. It didn’t seem that way for me. So I think that’s an advantage.”

The Capitals have made it clear they appreciate Holtby’s fiery personality and many have compared him to either Philadelphia great Ron Hextall or former Washington netminder and current associate goaltending coach Olie Kolzig.

For Kolzig, the passion and anger he could show in the course of a game was fuel for his teammates, Brooks Laich explained. Holtby has the same affect.

“It’s just the competitor within him. It was the same with Olaf Kolzig,” Laich said. “He would swing a stick and it wouldn’t mean that he was rattled or off his game. It was just the competitor inside him and that’s how he dealt with frustration a little bit, and then he can move on right away.

“I like seeing that out of a guy. It shows you that it hurts here,” Laich said as he pointed to his chest. “That it matters in his heart and that he’s passionate about what he’s doing. I have no problems with him — as long as he’s not swinging that stick on me when I score in practice.”

More on the Capitals:
Holtby is confident in net
First-round playoff schedule
Are the playoffs Joel Ward Time?
Schultz ready if Caps call on him
Does regular-season matchup matter?
Everybody’s picking the Bruins to win


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